Concluding our India program was the visit to the ancient city of Agra. Taking the 8:30 AM train to the city, the group got to see more of rural India outside of our windows, something we hadn’t seen in our urban-focused program. We arrived in Agra and headed straight to the most recognized landmark in the country, the Taj Mahal. As with big tourist attractions the US, there were masses of people trying to get in to see the monument. After waiting in line and getting through security, we meet our guide and began our tour. My first sight of the Taj completely blew me away, not only because of the building itself, but the beautiful gardens that surrounded it. We got the chance to go inside the Taj and learned more about its construction and purpose while walking around. We also got plenty of time to take pictures and discovered a curious phenomenon while doing so. Many of our group members were asked by strangers if we would be in a picture with them. This solidified the fact that Americans are a foreign curiosity in this part of the world and just how far away from home we were.
After the Taj, the group got the chance to see another aspect of the tourism industry in the local artisan shops. Here they made stone inlays and marble cravings such as those on the Taj Mahal. After these brief visits, we got lunch before preceding to our final stop of the day, the Agra Fort. The fort is home to many Mughal palaces and part of it is still used as an active Indian military fort. While the Taj Mahal was crowded, the Agra Fort was more relaxed and had less people visiting it. The fort was huge, having several large palace complexes made from Redstone, marble, and other valuable stones. Like the Taj, these palaces incorporated a variety of architecture styles, including Persian, Muslim, and Indian styles. It was a good physical representation of what we had been told throughout the program; that there are variety of cultures within the India, largely living in peace with each other. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to explore the entire fort because we had catch our train back the New Delhi. I thought the visit was a good bookend to our program. We were able to see one of the wonders of the world while also indirectly learning more about the tourism industry in India. We arrived back in New Delhi, where we picked up our luggage at the hotel and prepared ourselves for yet another long day of
flying. In closing, I believe everyone on the program learned a lot through our visits in India and that we are ready to share our insights with our family, friends, and colleagues upon returning the US.